Geneva Health Forum
Esteemed health professionals,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you today for the opening of the 2020 Geneva Health Forum. I wish to thank the organizers for making this important event possible and for their dedication to advancing the public health agenda around the world. Particular acknowledgement goes to the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) – the frontline in the Geneva Canton’s fight for the survival of COVID patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest crises of our age. Everywhere we look we are reminded of the rising COVID-19 cases, now reaching 50 million. Many are under lockdown. Life as we know it has come to a screeching halt, from the global economy, to education, to employment to travel. It has brought health to the core of all our actions.
COVID-19 has put the spotlight on the important and interdependent nature of public health. In fact, over one third of the Sustainable Development Goal indicators are health-related, and SDG 3 on “Good Health and Well-being” is universal and underpins everything that we do.
In other words, health is much more than just healthcare. It is also good nutrition. Over 700 million people go to bed hungry and 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. Health is quality education and ensuring that all children are taught how to prevent sickness and disease. Health is about the environment. Air pollution kills 7 million people a year and is one of the leading causes of death in the developing world. Health is about lifestyle choices. Nearly 2 billion adults are overweight and a third of those are obese. It is about mental health and spiritual well-being, especially today as we are challenged by COVID-19. Finally, health, which is a fundamental human right, is ultimately about peace itself.
Since its inception, the United Nations and its partners have been actively protecting and promoting the health and well-being of people everywhere. Despite the pandemic, the Organization has continued its work and found new ways to support its Member States and to cooperate with its partners. We coordinate activities, deliver equipment and supplies and offer health training. We support governments with policy expertise and the development of international standards for health. We are at the centre of efforts to ensure equitable access to therapies and vaccines and many other health-related necessities. The World Health Organization, which just concluded the 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly last week, is leading these crucial efforts within the UN System.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that international cooperation is the most effective tool to address global threats, including ones related to health. In order to move forward and rebuild better, we need a strengthened multilateral system with the United Nations firmly at its core. I believe that the participation of 1,600 stakeholders in this Forum, connecting from 80 countries, is a staring example of the type of inclusive and interconnected multilateralism that we need.
International Geneva is the ideal location for such collaboration. Home to over 80 UN and other international organizations, 180 Permanent Missions of Member States, 750 non-governmental organizations, a dynamic private sector and prominent academic and health institutions, this city is a powerhouse for innovative practices in global health. Many of Geneva’s key actors active in the health sector are also participating in this Forum, such as the WHO, UNAIDS, GAVI and many others. This Forum will also give a voice to and promote synergies among many actors in this field.
In closing, I would like to once again thank the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), the University of Geneva and their many partners in organizing this Forum. As we celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, I would also like to extend my most heartfelt appreciation to all nurses, midwives and all other healthcare professionals involved in the fight against COVID-19 for their tireless efforts in service of humanity.
I wish you all success in your deliberations.
Thank you very much.